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Combining Sentences Grammar Help

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Updated on Sep 8, 2011

Combining Sentences Grammar Help

Good writing includes sentences of varying lengths and complexity that make text more appealing and inviting to readers. To start with, you can achieve this by combining your sentences. In this lesson, you will learn how to do just that.

If you have ever read a book written for young readers, you probably noticed that the sentences were simple, direct, and short. While that kind of language may be helpful for beginning readers, it becomes extremely monotonous and uninteresting for advanced readers. Books that are more interesting to read contain a variety of sentence lengths and complexities. Authors accomplish this by combining sentences.

Besides simple sentences, there are three other kinds of basic sentences: compound, complex, and compound-complex.

We know that independent clauses are simple sentences, which must have, minimally, a simple subject and predicate. (See Sentence Structure Basics Help.)

Examples:

Nathan talks.

Les listens.

Nora laughs.

The following table maps out simple sentence structures. These examples do not include the infinite number of modifying words, phrases, and clauses that could be added for detail.

Simple Sentence Structures

Compound Sentences

Shorter sentences can be combined into one complete thought or sentence.

Example:

Nathan, Les, and Nora enjoy talking, listening, and laughing.

While that livens up the writing a bit, it is still rather limited. For more complex sentence structure, take two or more related sentences, or independent clauses, and join them with a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, or so) or a semicolon to create a compound sentence.

Examples:

Nathan and Nora talk and laugh; Les listens.

Les listens; Nathan and Nora talk and laugh.

Nathan and Nora talk and laugh, but Les listens.

Les listens, yet Nathan and Nora talk and laugh.

Nathan and Nora talk and laugh, so Les listens.

Les listens, and Nathan and Nora talk and laugh.

The combinations are, of course, interchangeable. The coordinating conjunction or is a good choice if the equal subjects have an alternative. The coordinating conjunction nor is a better choice if the expressions are negative. The conjunction for, denoting "because," would work grammatically, but isn't very logical.

Complex Sentences

In addition to compound sentences, we can create complex sentences by combining one independent clause and one or more subordinate (dependent) clauses.

Examples:

Les sat and listened while Nathan and Nora laughed and talked.

While Nathan and Nora laughed and talked, Les sat and listened.

Les sat and listened while Nathan and Nora laughed and talked, although he wasn't feeling well.

Although he wasn't feeling well, Les sat and listened while Nathan and Nora laughed and talked.

Tip: Remember to put your key message in the main subject/verb position of your sentence. Do not hide it in other clauses.

Compound-Complex Sentences

Finally, we can create compound-complex sentences, using at least two independent clauses and one or more subordinate clauses.

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